In the first decade of the 20th century, Texas City worked hard to establish itself as a port, transportation hub and industrial center. Priority was placed on economic growth and sustaining the new little community. Men without families and temporary visitors to the community, such as sailors, had little access to social or cultural venues other than saloons. Local businessman Hugh B. Moore suggested to his wife Helen that a library would be a better place for individuals to gather, spend time constructively, and improve themselves.
Helen Moore and a group of community women organized the Civic Club and began working on this idea. By the spring of 1914, they opened a reading room in a room donated by the old Southern Hotel, at the corner of Texas Avenue and Third Street. For two years the ladies raised funds and garnered donations to maintain and add materials to the little reading room. But in 1916, with volunteer resources needed in the efforts to support American soldiers fighting in World War I, the ladies closed the reading room and focused their efforts on aiding American soldiers overseas in Europe. To provide continued access to books and reading matter during the next decade, Mr. and Mrs. H.M. Strong graciously loaned their large, personal library to neighborhood children and other citizens.
In 1928, the population of the community was roughly 3,000 people, and citizens and city officials felt it was time to provide formal library services again. A new City Hall building was constructed on 6th Street, and city officials reserved a front, corner room of the new building for use as a library. Funds for the purchase of books, furnishings and materials came from donations from Col. Moore and other citizens, as well as proceeds from fund raisers such as oyster suppers and ice cream socials. Early reports show that the library initially started with approximately 900 volumes, but by September 1928, the holdings had increased to more than 2,100 volumes.
The library was a cooperative effort between the Civic Club and the City of Texas City. Operated by a committee of the Civic Club, it was staffed by a librarian, Bernadette Dowdy, who was paid by the City of Texas City. The City also furnished and maintained the building and grounds. Funds to buy library materials came from donations, fines, and rental income until 1942, when the Community Chest began to provide some funding for library operations.
City Hall was damaged in the 1947 explosion, but by 1948, the collection of the library had grown to 5,500 volumes. The City of Texas City purchased a home on the southwest corner of 4th Street and 9th Avenue, and remodeled it for use as a library. At this time, the name of the library was changed to Moore Memorial Public Library in recognition of Col. Hugh B. Moore, who was a lifelong supporter of libraries and learning until his death in 1944.
Throughout the 1950s, library usage continued to grow. Children's programs were added with story hour programs and summer reading clubs. In 1958, the Friends of Moore Library organized and began to raise funds for the library. The library also began to maintain an archive of community history.
In 1964, the City of Texas City took over operation and funding of the library. A new 9,000 square foot building was dedicated on July 23, 1964, at the current location of the library (1701 9th Ave N.). In 1974, Moore Memorial Library became a member of the Houston Area Library System and gained access to many more materials for its patrons.
In 1984, the Library was expanded to a 21,000-square-foot building with a large, new addition. A literacy program and a teen program were added in 1990. And in 1991, library operations were automated with a new computerized catalog and circulation system.
During the 1990s and the 2000s, the library continued to expand services, materials, and access. Public internet access was added in 1997. Comprehensive software and peripherals for public use were added in 2005. High-speed internet and wireless access was added in 2007. A self-check station and remote access to downloadable content was added in 2010.
Currently Moore Memorial Public Library holds more than 165,000 bar-coded items and provides access to millions more through online databases and interlibrary loan agreements. Circulation of materials in fiscal year 2008/2009 surpassed 253,000 items. High-speed internet access is available through both optical fiber networks and wireless transmission. Patrons can enjoy a large variety of DVDs, compact discs, books, audio books, magazines and other items. Most online databases are available remotely through home computers. Computer classes and a variety of programs are freely offered to persons of all ages.
As demand for services continues to grow, Moore Memorial Public Library and the City of Texas City are planning a future expansion of the library facility to meet future needs of the community.